I was standing with a coworker in the slum of Milongo Kubwa when a smiley guy in a bright yellow soccer jersey approached us. He had a young boy in tow with a thick, blood-stained bandage wrapped around his head. The guy in the yellow was David. He is 26 years old and is the chairman of Undugu’s newest street association. The boy he brought to us needed medical attention after getting bashed with a rock during a street fight.
While my coworker talked to the younger boy with the bandage and made the arrangements to get a letter admitting him to the hospital for treatment, I talked to David. David is a charismatic man who cares for the kids in the slums. He is also a product of the streets himself.
When David was ten years old, he boarded a bus in his home town and found his way to the streets of Nairobi. His coming to the streets is typical of so many other children who end up on the streets. But, David’s subsequent rise above the streets is not typical.
When David first arrived on the streets, he made a living doing the usual work of a street child; collecting plastics from garbage piles and reselling them as recyclables. David has a natural confidence and charm that assisted him in making some important contacts on the streets. One of those contacts taught him how to do basic wiring and electrical work. He learned fast and was eventually doing odd electrical jobs for people in the slum; fixing radios, wiring lights, even connecting the pirated electricity that strings from established buildings to the shanties of the slums.
In 1998, after being on the streets for seven years, he earned enough money to start renting a one room shanty. He still lives there and runs his electrician business from his home.
David is a role model for hundreds of children living on the streets. In spite of the rough blows that got him started on the streets, he has managed to create his own small business with an honest income and the dignity that comes with it. That should make him proud. But, if you ask David what his proudest accomplishment is, he doesn’t talk about his electrical work. Instead, he will tell you that he is proudest of kicking drugs. Like most people who grew up on the streets, David has a history of heavy drug use; mostly glue and other cheap inhalants.
Now, David is the chairman of an Undugu Street Association and he says the biggest challenge is getting the children living on the streets to stop sniffing glue. He recognizes that sniffing glue for these children is much more than an occasional recreational high; it is a constant abuse that takes them away from hunger and cold while making them brain dead. Rehabilitation of street children can’t even start until they are sobered enough to think straight. For children to someday be like David and earn their own incomes, they have to stop spending their nights and days clutching a bottle of glue.
David is dedicated to helping children accomplish this. That is why Undugu recruited him to chair a street association. One of the first things that David did was lead his association in choosing a name. They chose to be known as “Badalika, Uishi Poa,” which is Swahili for “Change, For a Better Life.” David has done just that with his own life, now he is helping others do the same.
Posted By Jonathan Homer
Posted Aug 11th, 2007